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I reserve a lot of my life's fear for sequels/prequels to successful horror movies. Not because they scare me, but because they usually execute the exact opposite of what made the initial movie a hit. That isn't the case with Paranormal Activity 2, but my fears haven't been allayed. Attempts to put me off guard were mostly efficacious, but there were only about a dozen of them, and all were attack points, instead of sustained notes. Parenting a one-year-old who doesn't attract ghosts is just as hard as parenting one who does, if this movie is to be a guideline. If you like it formulaic, your knuckles are already white.
Thanks to a random caption in Paranormal Activity 2, I was able to ascertain that these events take place some months before the original was "filmed" on home video. Following the rule that a succeeding movie will need to be the slightest bit more complicated in order for audiences to give a shit, characters are added and the fear tactics are upped. Considering the first film only had a combined three minutes of anything resembling scary, this should not have been a daunting task. However, the cinematic elements that were slighted last time are just as absent here.
Paranormal Activity 2 revolves around the spooky goings-on inside the residence of Daniel Rey (David Bierend), his wife Kristi (Sprague Grayden), daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), and toddler son Hunter (Jackson Xenia Prieto). Remember Katie (Katie Featherston) from the first one? (She was the girl in it, in case you're like me and forgot their names as soon as the credits started.) Kristi and Katie are sisters, so Katie has a handful of scenes that touch upon more of the sisters' past, involving demonic rituals and séances. Onscreen boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) also reprises his role for a few scenes.
Beyond the earliest scenes of Hunter's birth, shot on a hand-held camera by the characters, there isn't much of a purpose for the first-person perspective. Without the eventual intervening by the ghosts, who in God's name do the Reys think will watch their dreadful home videos? After an early (criminal?) disturbance puts the family on edge, Daniel has a security firm come in and set up cameras in the public areas of the house, as well as in Hunter's nursery. These fixed perspectives at least make sense, even if the gimmick is a tired one. The omniscience that these angles present achieves an eeriness that close-up camerawork fails to exude. Unfortunately, these demons aren't very imaginative in their haunting.
Instead of packing up and shipping off, as any family that cares about themselves would do, the adult Reys do their best to ignore common sense, even in the face of camera-caught proof. Of course, I know that they're not going to, because we wouldn't have a movie if they did that, and no one would be worse off for it. Other trite elements include spiritual obsessions with opening cabinet doors, dogs barking at thin air, easily explainable misunderstandings, and Hispanic housekeeper Martine (Vivis Cortez) with her demon-ridding rituals. At least they avoided a bathroom mirror fake-out scare. But seriously, why does a "video footage" movie need to have subwoofer bass drop in any time a loud noise is about to occur? If there isn't a musical score telling me when to be happy, then I should hear none around the spooky parts.
I should have more to say about a movie that grossed over $80 million, 42 times its budget. If I did, it would give away more than the spoiler-retarded previews have done for months. I hate a movie that can't live up to its advertising. And unlike the first film, there isn't even tension from a build-up, just an awful lot of security camera footage of absolutely fuck-all happening, as if the movie came up 15 minutes short after editing. The potentially interesting but ill-conceived ending sums everything up as one would predict, because there isn't really an ending. Just like there isn't much of a movie. I'd like my activity quick and normal from now on.
This Blu-ray release comes with the standard theatrical cut and the increasingly standard unrated cut, which has six more minutes of something or another. There is also a DVD and digital copy included. Neither the video nor the audio stand out, but the film's format doesn't call for high quality.
The only extras here are a few deleted scenes under the heading, "Found Footage," always a misleading title. One scene here, involving the swimming pool, should have been included in the movie, but the other incidental bits are easily forgettable.
If Paranormal Activity was your favorite movie -- a condition for which there is no known cure -- then nothing I say is going to sway you. But if you only half-liked it and thought it could have been better, or outright hated it, then read the Wiki-spoilers. Or don't, whatever. Ghosts still won't be real, regardless.
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